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Arthur Bourner

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Died : 28 September 1916

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Photograph courtesy of Mark Milton & John Streeter

Although Arthur lived for a time in Ringmer he was born in Lower Dicker and his parents Benjamin and Ruth had their home in Hellingly. Furthermore it was to Upper Horsebridge, Hellingly that Arthur's wife Florence Kathleen moved after his death. Indeed he is honoured on Hellingly War Memorial as well as on our own.

Arthur originally enlisted at Lewes into the Royal Sussex Regiment as a Private with number 10689. He was transferred to the 7th Battalion of the Queen's (Royal West Surrey Regiment) and given the new number G/24552. It was not, however, until after 1915 that Private Bourner joined his unit as part of the 18th (Eastern) Division in France. This limited his medal entitlement to the British War & Victory Medals.

A fairly quiet few months passed before the commencement of the Battles of the Somme. On the opening day, 1st July 1916, the area attacked by Arthur Bourner's Division near Montauban was one of the few to be successfully breached and held. The 7th Queen's 159 fatal casualties, with many more wounded, were considered 'light' when compared to other units. No real let up occurred and the 18th Division fought several more desperate battles in July before being relieved during August. The time was spent in intensive training for a major offensive during September against the fortified village of Thiepval. The attack against there on 1st July by the 36th (Ulster) Division had been a costly failure and many brave Irish lads died in the attempt. Now it was the turn of the 18th Division with Arthur Bourner in the 7th Queen's. After two days desperate hand to hand fighting the remains of Thiepval were taken. The next objective was a German strong point on the ridge overlooking Thiepval, 1,000 yards to the north, and known as Schwaben Redoubt. It was a complex interlocking trench system well fortified for all round defence.

The 7th Queen's formed up for the attack under the watchful eye of a German observation balloon, which rendered all attempts at surprise null and void. Although supported by the exhausted Division there was only one other battalion in the first wave. They moved forward at 1pm on 28th September 1916 and took intermediate defence lines with few casualties. Inch by inch the ground up to the Redoubt was won and then a furious struggle took place for possession of the individual posts at the Schwaben Redoubt. Many machine gun nests were bombed into silence by expert grenade throwing and sniping of exposed enemy heads. Little by little the bastion was wrestled from the Germans during the course of that and the following day.

The capture of Schwaben Redoubt cost the 7th Queen's some 395 casualties, many fatal, including Private Arthur Bourner. He is buried in Connaught Cemetery, at the foot of the rise, the capture of which cost him his life at the age of 28.

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Grave of Athur Bourner, Connaught Cemetery, Thiepval, France

Adapted from Valiant Hearts of Ringmer by Geoff Bridger: Ammonite Press, 1993